Carolina football plays its home games at Kenan Memorial Stadium (cap. 63,000), one of the most picturesque athletic venues in America. Kenan Stadium has been the home of the Tar Heels since 1927 and the thrill of playing in or attending a game there is as exhilarating now as it was when it was first constructed.
Considering its majestic setting among the Carolina pines, many observers say Kenan Stadium is the most beautiful football facility in the country. For scenery, atmosphere and charm, it cannot be surpassed.
The stadium has been expanded several times since its completion in 1927. In each instance, though, great care was taken to keep its fundamental beauty intact.
In 2011, Carolina opened the Loudermilk Center for Excellence and a premium seating section named the Blue Zone. Alumnus R. Charles "Charlie" Loudermilk Sr. of Atlanta made a $7.5 million donation to fund the 150,000 square-foot facility that serves all of Carolina's nearly 800 student-athletes across 28 sports.
Considering its majestic setting among the Carolina pines, many observers say Kenan Stadium is the most beautiful football facility in the country.
The Loudermilk Center's largest feature is the John W. Pope Student-Athlete Academic Support Center. This 29,000 square-foot facility provides classrooms for teaching and tutoring, advanced computer technology, a writing lab, reading rooms and office space. It is also home to the Baddour Carolina Leadership Academy, which offers leadership training to Carolina student-athletes, coaches and staff. A $3 million gift from the Raleigh-based John William Pope Foundation funded the academic support center.
Also housed in the Loudermilk Center is a strength and conditioning center for Carolina's Olympic sports programs, facilities for men's lacrosse and a visitor's locker room that can be split to host high school football championships. Other features include premium seating for fans watching football games, as well as office and operations space for the department of athletics.
The Blue Zone, offers 1,836 seats in the Concourse Club/Loge just a few feet from the field, 824 seats in the Upper Club/Loge on the fourth floor and 320 seats in 20 suites on the fifth floor. Combined, the project adds 2,980 seats to the stadium's capacity. The project will also tie the north and south concourses together and will provide the stadium with 360 degree concourse to enhance fan movement in the facility.
For more information and photos of the Carolina Student-Athlete Center for Excellence, please visit NewKenan.com.
Located in the west end zone, the Kenan Football Center was completed in 1997 and houses the operational needs of the Carolina football program. The football center includes the UNC locker room, weight room, training room, equipment room, players' lounge, computer labs and study areas, 100-plus seat auditorium, coaches' offices, theater and Hall of Honor.
An additional floor was added to the Kenan Football Center after the 2008 season. The fifth floor contains additional office and recruiting space for the day-to-day operations of the football program, four pregame gathering areas, a larger video and studio facility and a state-of-the-art press conference area. The recruiting area and suites also are used as academic study areas during the week. The second floor was completely renovated for increased football meeting spaces, including bigger individual position meeting rooms and a larger team meeting room. The fourth floor renovations added additional office space for football support staff.
The Charlie Justice Hall of Honor, located on the ground floor, is a multi-media history of Carolina football. Photographs, awards, trophies and artifacts detailing the rich and storied history of the sport in Chapel Hill are on display. The James A. Heavner Theater was made possible by a special gift by the former executive producer of the Tar Heel Sports Network and president of Vilcom. The theater is a 30-person mini-theater equipped with surround sound and seven dramatic videos presenting the history of UNC football.
A number of rooms in the Kenan Football Center have been dedicated in honor or memory of Carolina's benefactors, fans and athletic personalities. They include the Brinkley Lounge, the fourth floor reception area named for Harvey M. Brinkley Jr.; the Don McCauley/Paul Miller Head Coach's Suite; the Norman M. (Buddy) Black Jr. Lounge, the fourth floor hospitality area; the Oscar Davenport/Chris Keldorf Quarterback Meeting Room, as given by Bob Biggerstaff; the Jo Allison Clary Smith Weight Room; the Carolina Football Players' Locker Room, named in behalf of the more than 400 former Tar Heels who donated more than $2 million to the project; the Nassif Offensive Staff Meeting Room; the Ann and Paul Lawing Coaches' Locker Room; Koury Box North, box seating on the north side of the stadium named for Maurice J. Koury; the John W. Pope Academic Support Facility; the John W. Pope Stadium Box, a stadium box on the north side; the John D. Swofford Auditorium and the Jimmy W. Garrell coaches meeting room.
The 1997 expansion project, in which great care was taken to ensure that the surrounding environment would be altered as little as possible, was the first project to connect the north and south concourses to either end of the lower deck via the third level of the Kenan Center. That project also added nearly 8,000 seats, a state-of-the-art football facility, chancellor's box and preferred seating box. The Rams Club and its members committed more than $50 million to the project.
The football center is named in honor of the late Frank H. Kenan, one of the school's most generous benefactors. Kenan was a Durham resident and chief executive officer of Kenan Transport Company in Chapel Hill. He passed away at age 83 in 1996.
Kenan, a 1935 Carolina graduate, was the great-great-grandson of General James Kenan, a member of the University's founding board of trustees. An Atlanta native, Kenan had a tremendous impact on the growth of the University. He served on many campus boards, including the Board of Visitors and the Educational Foundation Board of Directors.
In recent years the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, of which he was a trustee, has donated more than $100 million to schools in the state's consolidated university system, including Carolina, NC State and the N.C. School of the Arts. Among other things, the trust funds 92 William R. Kenan Jr. Professorships at 56 colleges and universities nationwide. Kenan served on the steering committee of Carolina's Bicentennial Campaign, the University's largest fund-raising effort. Gifts by him, his family and the trust during the campaign exceeded $31 million. The largest portion of that was targeted for the business school. In 1991 the school was renamed the Kenan-Flagler Business School after a $10 million gift.
The preferred seating box that rises above the second deck of the grandstand on the north side of the stadium has outdoor seating for almost 1,200 spectators. That includes the Chancellor's Box on the second level of the box 45 feet above the ground. The fourth level, 68 feet high, has outdoor seating for more than 1,000, plus concessions and a 7,500 square foot lounge. There is a smaller lounge and food preparation areas on the third floor.
The Kenan Football Center and preferred seating box are the predominant changes in a multi-year renovation plan that began in 1995. A new playing field was installed that spring. The new turf includes an improved drainage system beneath the field that drains through the field itself rather than off the sides of the field as in the past. Prior to the 1996 season the restrooms and concession stands were expanded and renovated.
Another significant stadium expansion took place prior to 1988 and involved adding 2,000 choice seats between the 40-yard lines where the press box and chancellor's box formerly stood. A new press box was constructed on top of the upper deck on the stadium's south side. It is a one-level elongated structure, running from 10-yard line to 10-yard line.
Also part of the 1987-88 project were a permanent lighting system, a Chancellor's lounge on the north side of the field and a football lettermen's lounge on the south side. The lights are part of a General Electric low-mount system which minimizes the height of the lightpoles. Cost of the entire project was $7 million. It was funded by private gifts and bonds.
William Rand Kenan Jr. deserves the credit for originally making the stadium a part of the University. He was born in North Carolina in 1873 and graduated from Carolina in 1894. An international industrialist, Kenan discovered carbide and made monumental progress in the field of chemistry. During his business career he was president of The Florida East Coast Railroad, The Florida East Coast Hotel Company, The West Palm Beach Water Company and the Florida East Coast Car Ferry Company.
He was a director of Florida Power and Light Company and built the first power plant in Miami in the early 1900s.
The stadium was built as a memorial to his parents, William R. Kenan and Mary Hargrave Kenan. Construction began in November 1926 and was completed the following August. Complete cost of the stadium and accompanying fieldhouse was $303,000.
Originally, the stadium was to be built through funds raised by alumni donations, and by June 1926, a group of nearly 40 alumni had contributed $27,926. At this time, however, a copy of the prospectus and plan of financing the stadium came into the hands of Kenan, who expressed an interest in the proposal. Kenan was considering establishing a memorial to his parents, and the pressing need for a stadium and the possibilities of the beauty, dignity and permanence it presented, suggested to him that the benefaction he contemplated may well take the form of a memorial stadium. The Stadium Committee immediately endorsed his proposal and on the very day in November 1926 on which Kenan visited the planned site, he announced his financial gift to build the stadium.
Kenan remained very interested in Kenan Stadium throughout his lifetime. In the 1950s he gave a $1,000,000 contribution to construct a second deck on the stadium. After Kenan's death in 1965 the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, which was established by his will, donated $1,000,000 to enlarge and modernize Kenan Fieldhouse.
In 1988 the Kenan Trust made another $1,000,000 gift to complete the new Chancellor's box on the North Side. Another lasting memory of William R. Kenan Jr. is the Kenan Athletic Scholarship Endowment, valued at over $1,000,000. Each year a student-athlete is awarded a full scholarship from this fund.
Besides giving the stadium to the University, Mr. Kenan also sponsored and financed the famous Kenan Professorships. He was awarded the honorary degree of LL.D. by his alma mater in 1944.
In the first game played there, Carolina defeated Davidson, 27-0, on November 12, 1927.
Carolina's all-time record at Kenan Stadium is 249-162-16. The most points scored by the Tar Heels in Kenan came in the third game played there as Carolina whipped Wake Forest, 65-0, in the 1928 season opener.
As originally built, the stadium seated 24,000. However, in 1963 the benefactor added portable stands and then an upper deck to the permanent stands, which increased capacity to 48,000. That was expanded to 50,000 in 1979, 52,000 in 1988, 57,500 in 1997 and 60,000 in 1998.
At the East end of the stadium is the Kenan Fieldhouse, home of the Student-Athlete Development Center. A 20,000 square foot building, it is a one-of-a-kind facility. For study purposes, it contains a language lab, video room, computer lab, theatre-style lecture hall, several reading rooms and numerous tutorial rooms. UNC's academic counseling staff has the advantage of using the most modern techniques in assisting student-athletes.
Capacity crowds have come to be expected at Kenan. In 1997, the Tar Heels played in front of a record-shattering crowd of 62,000 on Nov. 8, 1997, as fifth-ranked Carolina battled No. 2 Florida State. The largest crowd to watch a game prior to the most recent major expansion was 54,300 as Carolina defeated N.C. State, 31-17, in 1994.
The 1983 season saw another first in the stadium -- a game played under artificial lights. The Carolina-Duke game was played in the late afternoon so it could be televised throughout the ACC area. Portable lights were brought in since the second half was played after sunset. Portable lights were also used in the 1987 Clemson game which was televised nationally by ESPN.
The 1991 season opener versus Cincinnati and that season's Clemson game, which was televised nationally by ESPN, were the first true night games ever played at Kenan Stadium.